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Exploring the past, present and future of Black Prairie life through the themes of Migration, Putting in Work, Black and Indigenous Relations, Politics and Resistance, and Black to the Future.
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Black on the Prairies

EDITORS’ LETTER

Black on the Prairies

EDITORS’ LETTER

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What does it mean to be Black in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba? It is impossible to limit more than 200 years of recorded Black presence on the Prairies to a single definition.

The CBC project Black on the Prairies began with a conversation among colleagues in the spring of 2020. The Prairies, like the rest of the country, were gripped by the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter.”

That conversation revealed a mutual desire to share the fullness of Black life on the Prairies. These stories are vital and urgent, especially during what the United Nations has labelled the International Decade for People of African Descent.

This project does not position the Prairies as Black ancestral territory or homelands. To be Black on the Prairies is to be part of a colonial legacy that begins on the ancestral lands of the First Nations and Métis people of this region. We aim to recognize Black and Indigenous peoples’ shared histories and affirm our ongoing relationships.

Through five themes — , , , , and — this project places Black people's experiences at the centre of the Prairie narrative.

Pink clouds in a prairie sky
Land of the Living Skies, 2021 (Omayra Issa)

These stories explore the richness, complexity, depth and multiplicity of Black Prairie life — past, present and future. They highlight achievements and histories that affirm the influence of Black life on the Prairies and challenge assumptions about its newness.

Bringing this project to life involved contributions from a 10-person community advisory board. They shared insights, curiosities and perspectives, ensuring that Black on the Prairies authentically represents a diversity of experiences and histories. To them, we are incredibly grateful.

In this project, you will find personal essays, articles, audio stories, images and more. We invite you to enter through any door.

Welcome to Black on the Prairies.

signatures of Omayra Issa & Ify Chiwetelu

Omayra Issa & Ify Chiwetelu
Black On The Prairies creators and project leads

Migration

We explore the arrivals, and movement, of Black people across the Prairies.

PLUS

“We came to this sunny Alberta … not as peons, not as a subject race. … We feel that our gentlemen and ladies are able to compete with the white ladies and gentlemen of this country.”

Henry Sneed quoted in 1911, Crossing boundaries


Putting in Work

We highlight the contributions and impact of Black people in the workforce of the Prairies.

PLUS

“This man, who I am calling a pioneer designer for the Black Prairies, left a mark that says despite any box you force me into, I have made myself free and will not be entangled in the yoke of your bondage again.”

Bertrand Bickersteth on Green Walters, Designing while Black


Black and Indigenous Relations

Relations between Indigenous and Black people are rich and long-standing on the Prairies. We bring you stories of solidarity, disconnection and everything in between.

PLUS

“My daughter Isabella is a curly-haired Black-Inninew-Anishinaabe. She will be the puffy-headed kid running around at the powwow.”

Tasha Spillett, Hair and the ties that bind


Politics and Resistance

From early community initiatives to recent Black Lives Matter protests, we examine the impact and legacy of Black resistance on the Prairies.

PLUS

“I’m not just organizing for the passion. I’m also organizing for those who will be coming in and to carry on that passion. You have to plan for the future.”

Cinderella Fubara, A summer of protest


Black to the Future

The Prairies have Canada’s fastest growing Black population. We imagine futures where Blackness is at the centre of the Prairie social fabric.

PLUS

“It is not only Black students who are robbed when the richness of their histories is excised from the history books; all of us are deprived when the full complexity of our collective history is denied us because it cheats us of a full understanding of our own present moment.”

Karina Vernon, editor of The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology, The whitewashing of Prairie history


COMMUNITY
ADVISORY BOARD

Thank you to the Black on the Prairies Community Advisory Board for their support and guidance

Tasha Beeds

kôhkom, Mide Kwe, Water Walker and Indigenous Studies Professor

Heaven Berhe

Student, Saskatchewan

Melissa Brown

Business Owner, Manitoba

Mahlet Cuff

Interdisciplinary Artist, Community Organizer, Manitoba

Dieulita Datus

Community Organizer, Alberta

Cheryl Foggo

Playwright, Author, Filmmaker, Alberta

Crystal Mayes

Nurse and Business Owner, Saskatchewan

Malinda Smith

Vice-Provost Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, University of Calgary, Alberta

Titilope Sonuga

Writer and Performer, Alberta

Judy White

Professor Emerita, University of Regina, Saskatchewan

​Black on the Prairies

Credits

Creators, Producers
Omayra Issa & Ify Chiwetelu

Associate Producer, Researcher, Audio Lead
Melissa Fundira

Associate Producer
Orinthia Babb

Designed by Andrew McManus

Developed by Dwight Friesen

Special Thanks
David Hutton
Lise Kouri
Heather Loughran
Natascia Lypny
Emily Mills
Sean Trembath
Karin Yeske

With support from CBC Calgary, CBC Edmonton, CBC Saskatoon, CBC Saskatchewan and CBC Manitoba